Eka jIva VAda – I Am Alone: Part IV

This Post is once again in continuation to the discussions on my earlier Posts.

I shall try to answer the questions and clarify on some of the conceptual issues raised by our esteemed Colleague Suka in his Comments of the 15th of April.

That we have to necessarily use words to express ourselves is pretty obvious. But the words come with their own baggage especially when we use them in contexts that are non-quotidian and are hence liable to be understood or misunderstood in unintended terms. Therefore, it looks to me that I should begin with clarifying the meaning of some of the words, and many a time, this by itself, will have the potential to resolve some of the pending confusion.

Suka observed, inter alia, in his comments of the 15th April:

I)   “Traditionalists (do not) consider neither māṇḍūkya bhāṣya nor vivekacūḍāmaṇi as authentic works of śaṅkara for this very reason.” [I guess “do not” is a typo.]

The above statement of Suka is pregnant with several assumptions.  The key questions that beg  an answer are: “What is to be understood by the word “tradition” and who is a “traditionalist?”

The next question is “How do we decide on the attribution of a work  to Sankara?”

My understanding of a “tradition” is as follows:

“Tradition” implies “handing down statements, customs, practices etc from generation to generation in a particular group or society etc.” Each tradition carries a specific name and the same name is carried down the line.

If we take the Vedic tradition, we have altogether 1108 Rshis as Upanishadkars belonging to one or the other of the four Vedas, passing on their Knowledge through generations of Guru-sishya lineage. Each tradition followed its own specific way of recension, word meanings, pronunciation, intonation etc.

The Advaitins recall the tradition starting with Narayana through a daiva-rishi-guru-sishya parampara ending with Sankara. Sankara established four Amnaya mathas to further hand down his teaching in his name.

To be called a “traditionalist”, IMO, only two alternatives are possible:

(i)  One should have had belonged to one of the 1108 Upanishadkars and carry out the teaching as per the instructions of that specific Sage concerned and also hold the teaching in the name of that Sage.(for example: We have still a Gaudapada matha near Pune, India carrying on the Gaudapada tradition).


(ii)   One should have belonged to any of the four Amnaya mathas established by Sankara if one claims to belong to the  tradition that has the brand name Sankara  and should carry out the teaching in the name of that matha.

These days, the de facto (and perhaps de juro) standard is Sringeri for Sankara’s tradition.

But unfortunately, it has become a fashion for the last few decades for every self-aggrandizing ambitious person to pitch his own tent with a new name and some altered values, hoist a flag and promote an empire ditching his own Gurus and calling himself as the follower of Sankara’s tradition, as if there is nobody in between him and Sankara and all the generations of teachers in-between were illegitimate!

Do we accept that as representing a “tradition”?

If we accord that the followers of Sringeri in the name of Sringeri are genuine “traditionalists” of Sankara, they have no reservations in accepting Mandukya  Karika and Gaudapada Acharya who continues to be the most brilliant ever-shining exponent of Advaita.

II)  Suka says “the equation tat tvam asi is between īśvara and jīva.” He also holds “To me kaivalya does not mean aloneness.”

I am afraid both notions are far removed from Advaita.

I shall explain in more detail in a separate Post. Briefly, for the present,  from the mahavakya “aham brahmasmi” and Brahman being “ekameva advitIyam”, I can conclude that I myself have to be Isvara too. There is no one else. Isvara is just a name given to ‘me’ when I am in the ‘creation’ etc. phases with taTastha lakshaNa-s.

The word “kaivalya” is derived from the Sanskrit root meaning of ‘one only‘.

In order that I may not be carried away by my own limited understanding, I referred Suka’s Comments to Dr. Vidyasankar, an expert on Sankara’s Advaita system and a lead disseminator of sampradaya knowledge and to Shri V. Subrahmanian, a highly knowledgeable Advaiti.

I reproduce below their responses:

Shri Vidyasankar:

“1. It is quite ironic that those who argue against the authenticity of texts like the Vivekachudamani should be described as traditionalists, when the fact is that the entire dispute about authenticity of textual attribution starts from sources that are severely to moderately critical of the torchbearers of the Advaita tradition.

2. In my opinion, having raised a question about the authorship of a text, beyond a point, it is methodologically unsound to couple issues of textual authenticity with the philosophical conclusions/propositions that form the content of the texts in question. There is a problem of circular reasoning involved. For a text that is attributed to a Sankara and has little to do with Advaita Vedanta, e.g. the vivaraNa on the yogasUtra bhAshya, it is easy to state that the author is a different Sankara. For texts that are completely within the ambit of Advaita Vedanta, one needs to be very careful. I direct the reader to my 2002 article in Philosophy East and West on this question.

3. That said, I agree that there can be no advaita without ISvara, but caution that, equally so, or perhaps more importantly, there can be no advaita without transcending the need for a relationship between two different entities called jIva and ISvara.

4. kaivalya indeed means aloneness. It is a term used in Jaina thought, in Yoga and in Vedanta, with different kinds of importance attached to it. It is only against Jaina or Yoga thought that a criticism of isolation -> alienation can be brought. In advaita vedAnta, the kaivalya that is held as a salvific ideal is the splendid isolation of the one Brahman where all duality has been transcended. When there is no second, what is there to be alienated from? Here is a quotation from the bRhadAraNyaka upanishat, to satisfy the SAstra-vAsanA – yatra tv asya sarvam AtmaivAbhUt, tat kena kaM paSyet/jighret/.….? This can be applied to the state that comes after the death of the physical body of the jIvanmukta, but it can equally well be applied to the real state of the jIvanmukta even when the physical body is functioning. “Living connected” is not the only mode of operation of the body that houses a jIvanmukta. It may be one of the modes adopted by some jIvanmukta-s, but it is not a necessary characteristic of jIvanmukti. To talk of connectedness presumes multiplicity of the entities that are so interconnected and a true jnAnI has already risen above all duality/multiplicity.”

Shri V. Subrahmanian:

“ It is wrong to say traditionalists discard the mandukya and vivekachudamani.  If he is looking for the popular advaitic view of the illusoriness of the world from a source other than the two cited works, here is one:
In the brahmasutra bhashyam (on the nature of dreams) Shankara says:

na cha viyadAdisargasyaapi Atyantikam satyatvamasti.  pratipaditam hi ‘tadananyatvam…’ BSB 2.1.14 ityatra samastasya prapanchasya
mAyAmAtratvam.  …..

//And yet the creation of space, etc. also has no absolute reality; for under the aphorism…2.1.14 we showed that the whole creation is but mAyA. But before the realization of the identity of the self with Brahman, creation counting from space, etc. continues just as it is, whereas the creation within dream is abrogated every day.  Hence the statement that dream is merely mAyA has  a special significance.//

In another (upanishad) (reference not immediately available) bhashyam Shankara says, ..// the upanishad itself thinks that the waking is non-different from the dream state…//

This view of the correspondent:  // Living connected, a jīvan mukta acts “lokasaṁgrahamevārthaṁ sampaśyan kartum arhasi.”//  on the nature of kaivalya is not admissible in Vedanta.  The jivanmukta operates in the world as long as the body lasts.  Upon the dissolution of the body there is no entity left to be identified as a jivan/mukta.  There is no duality then whatsoever.  That is the meaning of kaivalya: kevalasya bhAvaH.”

(to be continued)

3 thoughts on “Eka jIva VAda – I Am Alone: Part IV

  1. Could someone, please, translate the following quotation – supplied by Shri Vidyasankar via Ramesan – for me? Martin

    Here is a quotation from the bRhadAraNyaka upanishat, to satisfy the SAstra-vAsanA – yatra tv asya sarvam AtmaivAbhUt, tat kena kaM paSyet/jighret/.….?

    • Thanks, Martin. I should have done that.

      From Brihad. 2.4.14:

      yatra hi dvaitam iva bhavati tad itara itaram pasyati tad itara itaram jighrati tad itara itaram rasayate tad itara itaram abhivadati tad itara itaram srinoti tad itara itaram manute tad itara itaram sprisati tad itara itaram vijanati

      Where there is duality one sees another, smells another, tastes another, offers respect to another, hears another, thinks of another, touches another, and is aware of another.

      yatra tv asya sarvam atmaivabhut tat tena kam pasyet, tat tena kam jighret, tat kena kam rasayet, tat kena kam abhivadet, tat kena kam srinuyat, tat kena kam manvita, tata tena kam spriset, tat tena kam vijaniyat

      But for one for whom the Supreme Self is everything, how can he see another? How can he smell another? How can he taste another? How can he offer respect to another? How can he hear another? How can he think of another? How can he touch another? How can he be aware of another?


  2. Ah, yes; this is a wonderful teaching, expressed with brilliance and to full satisfaction – for ‘(him) he who has ears…’. I am acquainted with it. Thank you, Ramesam.

    (I have a good translation of that Upanishad)

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